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It's time embassies big and small learned to play a tune in harmony

Travel Alert Reform: Time to Change, Embassies Urged

Monday, July 26, 2010
A PHUKETWAN campaign to win reform of the chaotic and damaging system of national travel alerts has won the support of William E. Heinecke, the chairman and CEO of the Minor Corporation, a poweful player in resorts and retail in Thailand, among them Phuket's Anantara.

In an open letter to the ambassadors of nations with Bangkok embassies, released today, Mr Heinecke calls for reforms to standardise travel warnings to prevent unnecessary collateral damage.

During the red protests in April and May, many countries failed to exclude the Phuket and Andaman region from blanket warnings about potential violence in Thailand. Tourists were never a target and remained safe throughout the disturbances in the capital, especially on Phuket.

Phuketwan has urged that an international standard should be applied to all future travel alerts, in much the same way as there are international standards for air travel.

Here's what Mr Heinecke says in today's open letter to ambassadors:

''With life in Bangkok having returned to normal following the recent demonstrations, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you wholeheartedly for your assistance in lifting your country's travel warming, and indeed for all the steps you have taken since helping to address the issues that Thailand's tourism industry is now facing.

''As the CEO of one of Asia's leading leisure companies, with brands heavily invested throughout Thailand, I am passionate about the continuing recovery of the hotel industry and how we can transform any negative worldwide perceptions that linger from the recent turmoil.

''In looking to the future, we must all persevere in our efforts to re-establish a true international image of travel safety in Thailand, and in doing so I am eager to open a dialogue and have a better understanding of the approach, assessment and the issuance guidelines of your travel warnings.

"At this point I feel it is important to remember that while the global media at times unfairly portrayed Thailand - the entire country - as being unsafe for tourists, in actual fact outside of Bangkok, and specifically the Rajprasong area, life remained peaceful and unaffected by the events which took place.

''The negative effect on areas of the Kingdom untouched by the trouble was not only devastating but unnecessary. The time has come to call upon the embassies represented in Thailand to create a mutual agreement based on a clear and rigorous assessment that continued to guarantee the safety of the citizens of your nation whilst fairly depicting the state of this nation.

''When taking into account disturbances that have occurred in other countries around the world that have not resulted in a travel warning being issued, I have to say it saddens me to see a blanket warning being applied to Thailand. When there were the Athens anti-austerity riots in May and the Toronto G20 protests in June, travelers were only warned specifically about the protests happening in those cities, but were not told to avoid Greece or Canada as nations.

''Yet, when there were demonstrations restricted to Bangkok, the entire country of Thailand was labeled with a travel warning.

''I completely agree that travel warnings are useful and must be created in the full interest of each country's visitors, but they must also be realistic in their use. Perhaps we can consider reviewing how travel warnings are established and I would like to see the creation of an advisory board which could be represented by the private and public sectors to aid each embassy in assessing how best to make a fair and correct decision in respect of visitor security.

''Thailand is a Kingdom where international visitors are not targets and never have been for political grievances, as demonstrated by the way in which Thais continued to welcome guests with their renowned hospitality throughout the demonstrations this year and last year.

''As a long-term resident of Thailand and now a Thai citizen, I can honestly say that I, like so many visitors to Thailand, feel safer here than in most cities in Europe and North America. Indeed as you and your family have resided here for some time, I can only imagine that you share this sentiment.

''Hence it is heartbreaking to see a country-wide travel warning that causes unnecessary panic for international guests and hardship for the millions of people working in the travel sector and related industries.

''I understand fully that you have the interests and safety of your nation's people at heart, and my request does not infringe upon this patriotic approach. What I do ask, is that travel warnings are issued when and specifically where you feel that your citizens may be in danger, and that they are delivered on a fair and level basis by using the same criteria to judge all countries.

''Thailand has demonstrated its resiliency throughout various adverse events in the past, including economic crises and political uncertainty. I am confident that the memories of recent troubles will pass with time and that tourists will soon return to experience Thailand's natural beauty, unique culture, and the warm welcome of its people.

''I am further confident that Thailand will continue to be one of the world's leading tourist destinations. Indeed, Bangkok and Chiang Mai were recently voted as the No.1 and No.2 'Best Cities in the World' by Travel & Leisure's annual readers' survey, testament to the strong popularity Thailand continues to enjoy amongst tourists globally. I hope that by working together with the same goals in sight, we can instigate positive steps that will be safely beneficial for tourists and businesses alike.''
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Why would they exclude Phuket, when the PAD was protesting, in Bangkok, they suddenly decided to shut down Phuket's airport. Just because the current hot area for politics was in Bangkok, does not mean that some red supporters in Phuket would do nothing... Besides there should be a permanent travel warning against Phuket due to the crimes.

Posted by Chris on July 26, 2010 14:20

Editor Comment:

Phuket red leaders and yellow leaders gave undertakings to the governor that there would be no violence, and no repetition of the invasion of Phuket airport that took place way back in 2007. The PAD protests on Phuket in April were token efforts and always peaceful. To say there should be a permanent travel warning against Phuket ''due to the crimes'' is really silly. Tourists are safer on Phuket than they are in most of the world's big cities. Phuket and the Andaman coast should be excluded from travel alerts for the same reason as the Deep South provinces are included: it would be more accurate and save needless economic damage, not just in Thailand but around the world. One area is safe, the other is dangerous. Germany and Taiwan have said that Phuket is safe. So Germans are safe, and other Europeans are not? The national alerts are nonsense.

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So the blatantly self-serving "campaign" has "won" another "supporter" with vested interests. Wow.

I wonder where is the support of those who have both the interest of their nationals AND Phuket in their heart.

The honorary consuls in Phuket.

What group of people is possibly better positioned to objectively assess the travel warnings ?

Why don't you interview them and print what they have to say about the travel alerts, or does it perhaps not support your stance on the issue ?

This constant lambasting of the travel alerts is getting really old. We've all heard your opinion dear Editor, now try to come up with something new.

Posted by Mike Connely on July 26, 2010 17:16

Editor Comment:

Self-serving? Really? Please tell us how that works for Phuketwan. All we are doing is exposing a huge injustice. Individual national travel alerts cost people their jobs, needlessly. The alerts are often based on wrong information. The honorary consuls I've spoken to on Phuket are wholeheartedly in favor of a more sensible approach. Some of them though, are forbidden from speaking out . . . by the same embassies that seek to maintain control over the movement of their citizens. But the German honorary consul is happy to talk - his ambassador agrees that Phuket is safe, and always has been, and that people from other nations are just as safe here as Germans.

I'm afraid you're defending the indefensible. Nobody will speak out in favor of the present system - because it's such an obvious failure. We keep covering this issue because we recognise the importance of getting it right, as soon as possible. Try looking at the issue logically for a change.

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OK, maybe something needs to be done. I do disagree that there was never any concern in Phuket and there was never any danger (although remote). We have the luxury of living here and understand the system. However, saying the peoples loss of jobs is due to the travel alerts is off the mark. It was due to the protests, lack of response and eventually the killings that appeared nightly on the news. It's about time someone truly responsible is held accountable rather than another scapegoat outside of Thailand. Where was the justice for the airport closures? It's time the finger pointing is placed in the proper direction.

Posted by Jon on July 26, 2010 18:42

Editor Comment:

The travel alerts are what kills the insurance cover for the tourists, not the political unrest.

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oh yes, I can just see the mandarins of the carpeted corridors of Whitehall jumping up to attention when a group of people with vested interests and a small provincial paper make a stink.

ROFL.....

Meanwhile..back in the real world....

Why dont you and your chums try sorting out the root issues?

Try explaining to Thais that democracy is NOT demo-crazy, and that blocking the airports and docks, be it the yellow red or tuk tuk rats, and hanging hand grenades on shop doors tends to put tourists off. So does ripping them off...and boy has that message got out and about now.

Two years of consistently BAD press...ripoffs, riots, airport scams and rapes....

Som Nam Na suckers...y reap what y sowed, and now its harvest time.

Posted by sandman on July 26, 2010 19:06

Editor Comment:

Thai politics is for Thais to resolve. But I'm sure, Sandman, that your sophisticated counsel will be given every microsecond of the appreciative consideration it deserves.

As for our lack of influence, well I guess that's what keeps you from ever offering anything constructive. Why try, eh? Let's just sit back like Sandman and throw thoughtless cynicism at everything. Sorry Sandman, that's too pathetic.

You'd be surprised how widely articles about travel alerts are read. Mandarins everywhere love them. Members of the European Union are already talking about having combined EU diplomatic missions, so good ideas do get put in place eventually. Sadly, none of them will ever be yours.


Monday July 6, 2020
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